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Delicate discussions – talking to your parents about a Lasting Power of Attorney

It's not an easy conversation to have - talking to your elderly parents about a time when they may not be able to look after themselves.

That's why so many of us put it off. We don't want to upset them. We don't want to talk about death. We don't want to appear negative or gloomy or even worse, as if we are after their money.

But grasping the nettle when it comes to discussing what will happen if your parents lose mental capacity is one of the most important conversations you'll ever have - and this is where a Lasting Power of Attorney comes in.

What does having a Lasting Power of Attorney mean?

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) allows someone to appoint another person, or people, to act on their behalf if they lose mental capacity and are unable to manage their own affairs.

There are two types of LPA. One for property and financial affairs and one which covers health and welfare decisions and can include end-of-life care.

For an LPA to be valid, the person making it - known as the donor - must fully understand the implications of the arrangement at the time. It's called having mental capacity. This is why it is so vital to plan ahead even if it feels uncomfortable to do so.

How do I broach it?

Putting the conversation off till things reach crisis point carries a risk that your parents might lose mental capacity meaning it's too late to set up an LPA.

This could mean, for example, that you don't have the authority to access their bank accounts to pay for their care if needed.

Some tips on how to broach the subject include:

  • Try to start bringing the topic up generally - perhaps talk about your own plans to get your affairs in order for the future - in a bid to create an environment where talking about delicate topics like mental capacity and death are not seen as taboo;
  • Talk to any siblings first - not only do they then feel in the loop, you can explain to your parents that you're all singing from the same hymn sheet;
  • Show them the Office of the Public Guardian's (OPG) website which has a lot of useful information and guidance which will help them see what a sensible, precautionary step an LPA is;
  • Be sensitive but be upbeat - there are so many positives, including peace of mind, to having an up to date Will and LPA in place.

Next steps

Getting the paperwork right is vital. Although you can do an LPA online, using a specialist solicitor to create and register an LPA safeguards against it being drawn up with errors that turn out later to be expensive, time consuming and extremely stressful to put right.

Specialist solicitors can also help you come to a family consensus on who might be best suited to act as attorney and whether appointing more than one family member to share the responsibility might be worth considering.

They can also explain how your parents also have the option to appoint a professional, such as a solicitor or an accountant, to act as a neutral third party and make unbiased decisions in their best interests. Bear in mind this usually involves a cost.

Remember, an LPA can only be used once it has been registered with the OPG, a process that can take several months.

As well as regular articles on our website, we have prepared a series of legal guides to provide more information:

For more information please contact Wards Solicitors specialist Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team.

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